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Chile quake may cut forestry exports 15 pct-report

SANTIAGO, March 9 (Reuters) - Chile’s key forestry sector may see exports fall by around 15 percent this year after a giant earthquake destroyed processing plants, an industry executive told the daily Diario Financiero.

Chile is one of the world’s top producers of cellulose used to make paper and Jose Campino, the president of timber company Corma, said the industry was the hardest hit by the Feb. 27 quake in south-central Chile.

“The forestry sector is in the epicenter of the earthquake,” Campino was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

He said exports could drop to $4.2 billion this year from about the $4.9 billion that had been projected before the quake hit.

The South American country accounts for around 9 percent of the world’s wood pulp and the losses are expected to push global paper prices up. [ID:nLDE6241A5] [ID:nN03113385]

The 8.8-magnitude quake that killed hundreds of people and sparked violent looting largely spared the country’s linchpin copper industry, but infrastructure damage is seen as a lingering risk to one of Latin America’s most stable economies.

Forestry conglomerate CMPC CAR.SN had to halt production all but three of its plants after the quake and the company declared force majeure on its contracts because of damage, company CEO Arturo Mackenna told the paper.

The forestry arm of competitor Copec COP.SN said it will not produce pulp during March after most of its facilities were damaged. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ TAKE-A-LOOK on Chile earthquake [ID:nCHILE] Graphic ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ (Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by John Picinich)